Preston Thomas Memorial Symposium: Acts of Repair
Preston H. Thomas Memorial Symposium
To challenge histories and memories displayed in public spaces, architecture must reckon with the ways in which its multiple dimensions across built, natural, and imaginary environments have been instrumental in perpetuating colonial narratives and materializing inequities. By acknowledging the violent dimensioning of architecture and its historically divisive power, we have the opportunity today to recognize how manifestations of architecture can be allied with spatial practices that center and embody scales of repair.
We have entered a new period for reconstructions: of self and nature, of cities and the planet. Imagining a future in which societies have the means to recover land and restore the climate, we may also prompt ideas for the repair of both human and nonhuman communities and their symbiotic cultural survival. Reparations should be at the forefront of design, thinking, and pedagogy.
Acts of Repair proposes an open series of roundtables on the restorative dimensions of architecture among practitioners across design, landscape, arts, curating, pedagogy and advocacy. We invite the public to share in thinking through concepts of repair and reconstruction that may open new visions of an ethical architecture, urbanism, and landscape. Bringing diverse voices and geographies into dialogue, each conversation will address the ways in which structural injustices can be acknowledged, and cultural, affective, and ecological bounds reconceived.
As a means for bringing compelling visual language into the conversation, WAI Think Tank was commissioned to create a collage titled Acts of Repair that appears as a mural pulling together the many scales, concerns, and lines of inquiry in question. Click here to view the animation of the mural.
The Preston H. Thomas series is funded through a gift to Cornell's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning from Ruth and Leonard B. Thomas of Auburn, New York, in memory of their son, Preston. The symposium events are free and open to the public.
Click here to register for the talks on April 16th.
Click here to register for the talks on April 20th.
Co-organized by Sean Anderson, Associate Curator at the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, and Paulo Tavares, visiting critic at the Cornell AAP Department of Architecture, lecturer at the University of Brasilia; coordinated by Elias Bennett (B.Arch. '20) and Oonagh Davis (B.Arch. '20).
Schedule April 16
Part I - Friday, April 16
Registration will allow access to all of the talks occurring on this day, which will occur in the same virtual meeting space.
9:30 a.m. Grounds for Repair
Introduction to the series by Architecture Department Chair, Andrea Simitch
Opening statement by coorganizers Sean Anderson and Paulo Tavares
9:45 a.m. Land-Grab Universities
A dialogue with:
Dr. Robert Lee
10:45 a.m. Video
Streaming: Indigenous Science by Ursula Biemann
11:00 a.m. Of Land and Knowledge
A dialogue with:
Ursula Biemann in conversation with Paulo Tavares and Sean Anderson
12:30 p.m. Break
2:00 p.m. Of Land and Memory
A dialogue with:
4:00 p.m. Break
Streaming: Video presentation
5:30 p.m. Reconstructions
A dialogue with:
J. Yolande Daniels
Respondent: Jess Myers
Schedule April 20
Part II - Tuesday, April 20
Registration will allow access to all of the talks occurring on this day, which will occur in the same virtual meeting space.
9:30 a.m. Spaces in Repair
Welcome and Introduction by co-organizers Sean Anderson and Paulo Tavares
9:40 a.m. Video Presentation
10:00 a.m. Projections
A dialogue with:
12:00 p.m. Break
Streaming: Video Presentation
2:00 p.m. Transits
A dialogue with:
4:00 p.m. Break
5:30 p.m. On Grounds and Erasures
A dialogue with:
Mabel O. Wilson
7:00 p.m. Closing Remarks
Respondent: Shumi Bose
Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and is editor-in-chief at the Texas Observer. He has reported for multiple outlets including PBS NewsHour, National Native News, NPR, Al Jazeera America, and High Country News where he served as Indigenous Affairs editor. Ahtone's stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Gannett Foundation. Additionally, he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. Ahtone is a director of the Muckrock Foundation and is a former president of the Native American Journalists Association.
Germane Barnes' research and design practice investigates the connection between architecture and identity, examining architecture's social and political agency through historical research and design speculation. Mining architecture's social and political agency, he examines how the built environment influences black domesticity. Barnes was born in Chicago and received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and an M.Arch. from Woodbury University where he was awarded the Thesis Prize for his project Symbiotic Territories: Architectural Investigations of Race, Identity, and Community. He believes strongly in design as a process and approaches each condition imposed on a project as an opportunity rather than a constraint. Architecture presents opportunities for transformation – materially, conceptually, and sociologically. Currently, he is an assistant professor and directs the Community Housing & Identity Lab (CHIL) at the University of Miami School of Architecture, a testing ground for the physical and theoretical investigations of architecture's social and political resiliency. His work has been featured in many outlets and venues, most notably, MoMA, The Graham Foundation, The New York Times, Architect Magazine, DesignMIAMI/Art Basel, The Swiss Institute, Metropolis Magazine, Curbed, and The National Museum of African American History where he was identified as one of the future designers on the rise.
Ursula Biemann (born 1955, Zurich, Switzerland) is an artist, author, and video essayist. Her artistic practice is strongly research-oriented and involves fieldwork in remote locations from Greenland to Amazonia, where she investigates climate change and the ecologies of oil, ice, forests, and water. In her multi-layered videos, the artist interweaves vast cinematic landscapes with documentary footage, SF poetry, and academic findings to narrate a changing planetary reality. Biemann's pluralistic practice spans a range of media including experimental video, interview, text, performance,& photography, cartography, props, and materials, which converge in formalized spatial installations. Her work also adopts the form of publications, lectures, and curation as well as collaborative research projects. Biemann received her B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts (1986) in New York and she pursued post-graduate studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program (ISP) in New York where she lived most of the 1980s. She returned to Switzerland in 1990. Until 2014, she was a senior researcher at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and continues to give lectures and seminars worldwide. Biemann is appointed doctor honoris causa in humanities by the Swedish University Umea (2008). She has received the 2009 Prix Meret Oppenheim, the Swiss Grand Award for Art, and the 2018 Prix Thun for Art and Ethics. In 2021 she launched an online monograph BecomingEarth.net featuring a decade of ecological video works. Since 2018 she is involved in co-creating an Indigenous University of the South of Colombia.
Sekou Cooke is an architect, researcher, educator, and curator based in Syracuse, N.Y. He is currently an assistant professor at Syracuse University's School of Architecture where he teaches design studios and seminars that value breadth of exploration over formulaic production. Through his professional practice, sekou cooke STUDIO, he brings thoughtful processes and rigorous experimentation to a vast array of project types from public, non-profit, and residential works in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, to mixed-use projects and tenant improvements in California, and speculative developments locally and internationally. Cooke's current research centers on the emergent field of Hip-Hop Architecture, a theoretical movement reflecting the core tenets of hip-hop culture with the power to create meaningful impact on the built environment and give voice to the marginalized and underrepresented within design practice. This work has been widely disseminated through his writings, lectures, and symposia, and is the subject of his upcoming monograph Hip-Hop Architecture. His work is also featured in the landmark exhibition, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, at the MoMA. Through his research, practice, and other academic endeavors, Cooke hopes to leave an equally lasting impact on ivory towers and underserved communities. His ultimate goal is mastery of craft and world domination. Sekou holds a B.Arch. from Cornell University, an M.Arch. from Harvard University, and is licensed to practice architecture in New York State.
Chris Cornelius is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and an associate professor of architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the founding principal of studio:indigenous, a design practice serving Indigenous clients. Cornelius was a collaborating designer with Antoine Predock at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee. Chris is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the inaugural Miller Prize from Exhibit Columbus, a 2018 Architect's Newspaper Best of Design Award, and an artist residency from the National Museum of the American Indian. Chris has been exhibited widely and was included in the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Cornelius is the spring 2021 Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale University.
J. Yolande Daniels
J. Yolande Daniels is a co-founding design principal of studioSUMO in New York. She is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome and recipient of the Rome Prize in Architecture, as well as a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and of the Independent Study Program of the Whitney American Museum of Art in studio practice and cultural studies. She holds a master of architecture from Columbia University and a bachelor of science in architecture from the City University of New York. The work of studioSUMO ranges from institutional and cultural projects in education and the arts to housing, to research-oriented installations and exhibitions. Daniels is an associate professor in architecture at the University of Southern California. She has taught architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, the University of Michigan, Washington University in St Louis, Pratt Institute, and City College. She has also held the positions of Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor at Yale University, the Silcott Chair at Howard University, and Interim Director of the Master of Architecture program at Parsons School of Constructed Environments.
Felecia Davis is an associate professor at the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Pennsylvania State University and is the director of SOFTLAB@PSU. This lab is dedicated to developing soft computational materials and textiles and is for the use of Penn State students and faculty, industry, and community partners engaged in collaborative research and projects. The point of the lab is to establish a culture of hands-on making and thinking through computational materials and the lab links together research, teaching, and practice. Davis' work in architecture and textiles connects art, science, engineering, and design and was recently featured by PBS in the Women in Science Profiles series. Davis is currently completing a book that examines the role of computational materials in our lives titled Softbuilt: Networked Architectural& Textiles. Davis' work is part of the Museum of Modern Art's forthcoming exhibition Reconstruction: Blackness and Architecture in America. She is a founding member and an executive officer of the Black Reconstruction Collective a not for profit, 501c3 group of Black architects, scholars, and artists supporting and funding design work about the Black diaspora. She has completed a Ph.D. in the Design and Computation Group in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT. She received her Master of Architecture from Princeton University, and her Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Tufts University.
Candice Hopkins is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her writing and curatorial practice explores the intersections of history, contemporary art, and indigeneity. She works as senior curator for the 2019 and 2022 editions of the Toronto Biennial of Art and was part of the curatorial team for the Canadian Pavilion of the 58th Venice Biennale, featuring the work of the media art collective Isuma. She is co-curator of notable exhibitions including Art for New Understanding: Native Voices 1950s to Now, the 2018 SITE Santa Fe biennial, Casa Tomada; documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany; Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada and Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years in Winnipeg, MB. Her essays include "The Gilded Gaze: Wealth and Economies on the Colonial Frontier," for the documenta 14 Reader, "Outlawed Social Life" for South as a State of Mind, and "The Appropriation Debates" (or The Gallows of History), for MIT Press.
Ekene Ijeoma works at intersections of life experiences and data studies, poetic acts, analytic insights, and aesthetic quality and social efficacy creating artworks ranging from apps and websites to music performances and interactive installations. Between his studio and lab practices, he's interested in developing new ways of seeing and understanding social issues through multiple fields of research and translating them into multimedia using computational design and conceptual art strategies.
Dr. Robert Lee is a historian of the United States focused on Indigenous dispossession and U.S. state formation in the 19th-century American West. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in American Studies from the Universität Heidelberg, and a B.A. in History and Economics from Columbia University. He was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining the faculty at the University of Cambridge.
Mpho Matsipa is an educator, researcher, and curator based in South Africa. She is the founder and curator of African Mobilities, an itinerant multi-media, multi-year, curatorial and experimental research and teaching platform, podcast series, and pan-African network for African designers, artists, and urban theorists. As a curator of exhibitions and discursive platforms, she has been responsible for Studio-X Johannesburg (GSAPP) and the South African Pavilion at the XI International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale (2008) and has more recently participated in numerous significant curatorial programs with the Cosmopolis II (Pompidou Centre) and the Ultrasanity (Lubumbashi Biennale). She has served as a member of the WiSER podcast committee, and as a critic and guest speaker at numerous prestigious institutions, including GSA University of Johannesburg; the University of Lagos, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Canadian Center for Architecture, Tulane University, UPenn, McGill, University of Chicago, Columbia GSAPP, Harvard GSD, CAA-Getty, and MoMA, among others. Mpho has also authored critical essays, podcasts, and reviews on public art, culture, and space. Working both within and outside of formal institutions, she has cultivated spaces that promote the discursive mobility and creative exchanges between artists and urban researchers within African and the global diaspora. Mpho is currently an Andrew Mellon co-investigator and Research Fellow at the WiSER, and a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Christopher Roberts earned a Ph.D. in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University and an M.A. in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. He examines Black geographies of memory and forgetting, with an emphasis on port cities in the U.S. that anchored the transatlantic and domestic slave trades. His current manuscript project proposes an alternative episteme through which we can unsettle the antiblackness and geographic imperialism inherent in the monumental landscape of the U.S. via robust archival, field, and digital humanities research that analyzes Confederate monuments and African burial grounds in the U.S. American South. Prior to teaching at RISD, he taught at Brown University, where he was the Artemis AW and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow at The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Before that, he taught at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J. and Temple University in Philadelphia. In addition to his career in academia, Roberts spent 10 years as a museum professional working in educational programming and tour design at The Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. While in Oakland, he worked as a poet mentor in Bay Area public schools for the organization Youth Speaks Inc. He has also worked as a spoken word artist, performing his poetry in cities across the U.S., and from 2007–11 he hosted an open-mic poetry event in his hometown of Baltimore, M.D.
Pascale Sablan, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP, Associate at Adjaye Associates, with over 14 years of experience, has been on the team for a variety of projects around the world. Pascale is the 315th living African-American, woman registered architect in the U.S. She is an activist architect who works to advance architecture for the betterment of society, bring visibility and voice to the issues concerning women and BIPOC designers. She founded the Beyond the Built Environment organization positioned to uniquely address the inequitable disparities in architecture. In 2020 Pascale was voted President-Elect of the National Organization of Minority Architects, the 5th woman to hold this position. She was awarded the 2020 AIA New York State President's Award and the 2021 AIA Whitney M. Young. Jr Award for her advocacy efforts and ascended to the AIA College of Fellows, the youngest African American to reach that honor. Pascale has given lectures at colleges and universities nationally; cultural institutions such as the United Nations and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Vivien Sansour is an artist, storyteller, researcher, and conservationist. She uses images, sketches, films, soil, seeds, and plants to enliven old cultural tales in contemporary presentations and to advocate for seed conservation and the protection of agrobiodiversity as a cultural/political act. Vivien founded the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library as part of this work with local farmers and has been showcased internationally, including at the Chicago Architecture Biennale, V&A Museum in London, Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, and the Venice Art Biennale. A culinary historian and enthusiastic cook, Vivien works to bring threatened varieties "back to the dinner table to become part of our living culture rather than a relic of the past."This work has led her to collaborate with award-winning chefs, including Anthony Bourdain and Sammi Tamimi. Born in Jerusalem, Vivien lives in both Bethlehem, Palestine, and Los Angeles, USA.
Summer Sutton (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina) is a doctoral candidate at Yale University and assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. She is a co-founder of the Indigenous Scholars of Architecture, Planning and Design (ISAPD) with her work being featured in Architectural Digest, ByDesign Magazine, Indian Country Today, Native America Calling, and a co-authored chapter in the award-winning catalogue, Place, Nations, Generations, Beings (2019). Summer’s academic research looks at Indigenous architecture practices of marking and stewardship in the contemporary built environment. Her work illuminates the design practices that both contest and contend with fixed notions of architecture and planning through development projects for community governance, education, and economic development on Indigenous land. In 2019-2020, Summer was a visiting studio instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) School of Architecture. From 2013-2016, she was an assistant professor of architecture at the American University in Dubai and a visiting assistant professor of architecture at Texas Tech University in 2010. She holds a master's of philosophy from Yale University, a master’s degree in architecture from M.I.T., and a B.Arch. from Cornell University
AMANDA WILLIAMS is a visual artist who trained as an architect at Cornell University. Williams’ creative practice employs color as a way to draw attention to the complexities of race, place and value in cities. The landscapes in which she operates are the visual residue of the invisible policies and forces that have misshapen most inner cities. Williams’ installations, paintings and works on paper seek to inspire new ways of looking at the familiar and in the process, raise questions about the state of urban space and autonomy in America. Amanda has exhibited widely, including the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, a solo exhibition at the MCA Chicago, and a public project with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis. Williams (along with Olalekan B. Jeyifous) has been commissioned to design a permanent monument to Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. She is a USA Ford Fellow, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors grantee, and a member of the multidisciplinary Museum Design team for the Obama Presidential Center. Her work is in several permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. She epitomizes what it means to be a civic artist and is often sought after as a leading voice on the subject of art and design in the public realm; including talks at the MET and a mainstage TEDTalk.
Mabel O. Wilson
Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George Rupp Professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, as well as a Professor in African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. She also serves as the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies and codirector of Global Africa Lab. She has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture(2017), Negro Building: African Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012/21), and the volume Race and Modern Architecture: From the Enlightenment to Today (2020) with Irene Cheng and Charles Davis. With her practice Studio&, she is a member of the architectural team that recently completed the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia. She is cocurator of the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America (2021) at MoMA. She is a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?)—an advocacy project to educate the architectural profession about the problems of globalization and labor.
Ilze Wolff co-directs Wolff Architects with Heinrich Wolff, a practice concerned with an architecture of consequence. She is the author of the award winning 2017 book ‘Unstitching Rex Trueform, the story of an African factory’ a biography of a Cape Town modernist garment factory and its entanglements with societal constructions of race, gender and space. For her work with Wolff she was shortlisted for the 2018 Architectural Review’s Moira Gemmil award for emerging architects. In 2017-2019 she was a research fellow at the University of the Western Cape’s, Centre for Humanities Research and she is the co-founder of the publication and research platform pumflet: art, architecture and stuff which focuses on black social and spatial imaginaries. pumflet has featured in various local and international platforms such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2019), the Centre for the less Good Idea (2018), Chimurenga, Institute for Creative Arts UCT (2019), Performa NY (2020) and Publishing Against the Grain. Ilze regularly presents her research practice in talks, essays and exhibitions in various forums across the world including most recently, an essay in the Architectural Review on gardens as sites of resistance; in e-flux architecture as part of a series on confinement and home and in African Mobilities 2.0 on musical influences on design practice.Through the practice and with her colleagues at Wolff, their space in Bo-Kaap has hosted exhibitions, interventions, publications and talks in collaboration with artists, activists and scholars and in that way developing an enduring public culture around the city, space and personhood.
Jess Myers is an urbanist, podcaster, and editor focusing on urban planning and architecture. In 2017, she received a master's degree in City Planning from MIT. She also holds a B.A. in Architecture, with minors in Urban Studies and French, from Princeton University. Outside of her work as an assistant professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Jess is the series editor of Taking Freedom, a social justice book series, which will be published by a coalition of the Service Employees International Union and MIT's Community Innovators Lab. She is also the co-steward of the Architecture Lobby's New York chapter, an activist architecture group that seeks to raise political consciousness amongst architectural workers and improve working conditions in the field. In the past, Jess has worked in diverse roles — archivist, translator, consultant — in both New York and Paris, within cultural practices that include Bernard Tschumi Architects and the Pompidou Center. Her personal interests and research engage multimedia platforms as a means to explore culture and the urban condition.
Shumi Bose is an architectural historian, curator and teacher. She is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at UAL Central Saint Martins, and a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art. In 2021, Shumi was appointed a Trustee of The Architecture Foundation. As a curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects, exhibitions include Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media with Space Popular (2020), and A Home For All: Six Experiments in Social Housing (2018). In 2016, Shumi co-curated Home Economics, exhibited at the British Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, alongside Jack Self and Finn Williams; in 2012 she was a curatorial collaborator with Sir David Chipperfield in his directorship of Common Ground, at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. Shumi works as a writer and editor, contributing to publications including PIN UP, Log and Metropolis. Recent publications include Spatial Practices: Modes of Action and Engagement with the City (Routledge, 2019), Home Economics (The Spaces, 2016) and Wherever You Find People: The Radical Schools of Oscar Niemeyer, Darcy Ribeiro and Leonel Brizola (Park Books, 2016).
Photo Credit: Henrietta Williams
WAI Think Tank
WAI Architecture Think Tank is a planetary studio practicing by questioning the political, historical, and material legacy and imperatives of architecture and urbanism. Founded in Brussels during the financial crisis of 2008 by Puerto Rican architect, artist, curator, educator, author, and theorist Cruz Garcia and French architect, artist, curator, educator, author, and poet Nathalie Frankowski, WAI is one of their several platforms of public engagement that include Beijing-based anti-profit art space Intelligentsia Gallery, and the free and alternative education platform and trade-school Loudreaders. Based on the emancipating and persecuted alternative practice of education performed by lectores like Luisa Capetillo in the tobacco factories in the Caribbean, Loudreaders is an open pedagogical platform and free trade school that engages with architectural education as a form of mutual aid and critical solidarity in the age of Covid-19.
Garcia and Frankowski are faculty at Virginia Polytechnic University and Virgina State University and have held visiting professorships, fellowships, and chair positions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and The School of Architecture at Taliesin. Their work has been part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial and exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art New York, Neues Museum in Nuremberg, and the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology in Lisbon. They are authors of Narrative Architecture: A Kynical Manifesto, Pure Hardcore Icons: A Manifesto on Pure Form in Architecture, A Manual of Anti-Racist Architecture Education, and the upcoming book
Through the constant ethos of asking "What about it?" WAI Architecture Think Tank is a workshop for architecture intelligentsia that speculates on the possibility of:
Workshops for Anti-Racist Imaginaries
Workshops for Anti-Ableist Imaginaries
Workshops for Anti-Capitalist Imaginaries
Workshops for Anti-Alienating Imaginaries
Workshops for Anti-Imperialist Imaginaries
Workshops for Anti-Heteropatriarcal Imaginaries